As India rapidly evolves into a global economic force, more and more entrepreneurs are innovating and creating unique products. Here are two such entrepreneurs who have come up with some fascinating ways to merge the best of global practices with the best of India.
I was invited to give a talk at the Nashik Entrepreneurship Forum by Sanjay Lodha on angel investing, and had a great day because I learned a lot. I live in Mumbai, which is the economic capital of India. We Mumbaikars think we’re the leaders in the financial space and know everything there is to know about investing. However, going to Nashik opened my eyes.
Mr. Shrirang Sarda, a Director at Sarda Group of Companies, and Mr. Rajesh Malpani (sadly, I am not related to him), a Director at Malpani Group in Sangamner, gave a great presentation on how they have grown their family business. They are third-generation family businessmen who went to the USA for higher education and then came back to run the companies which they inherited. Both men are progressive and forward-looking, and it was inspiring to hear how these businessmen, who are rooted in Indian culture, have crafted such great success stories by transforming themselves into professionally managed family businesses. They have successfully blended the best of both worlds because they think global and act local.
The two have tons of domain expertise, a lot of which they have absorbed from their elders, and they can apply it scientifically using modern management principles.
They earn a lot of money, and also take extremely good care of their workers. Many of the perks they offer their employees are very innovative. Here’s an example. Indian weddings are expensive affairs, and they realised that a lot of their factory workers ended up in debt because of these marriage expenses. They started doing mass weddings for their workers, thus saving them a lot of money. An employer-sponsored mass marriage is a uniquely Indian twist on how to offer employee benefits creatively!
This is a great example of how empathetic founders who understand Indian traditions can create a win-win situation. Not only did employees gain by saving on the wedding expenses, the management also benefitted, because they created employee delight and loyal workers. Based on the success of this initiative, they started a nursery school in the factory premises so that the mothers could continue to work, and book banks for educating their children, so that they could complete their schooling. Enlightened management has helped to transform the lives of all their workers, and helped the town progress dramatically as well.
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Over and above becoming the employers of choice, they have also helped to reduce indebtedness by starting a workers’ credit society to rescue them from the clutches of the local money lenders (sahukars) who would charge exorbitant rates of interest.
Creating wealth is extremely important for India’s progress, and these entrepreneurs have helped to create a thriving economy locally. However, nobody celebrates them because they are not your typical startup founders. People need to respect them, because they started completely new verticals within an existing family business – for example, in renewable energy for the Malpani Group, and in dairy farming for the Sarda group . These companies are extremely successful, and very profitable, without taking any external funding. They are frugal and patient, and have a long-term vision, because they want to hand their companies to their next generation, just like their forefathers did.
There must be so many of these success stories in Indian towns which unfortunately we are completely unaware of. Sadly, in India, we know more about the Silicon Valley success stories rather than these home-grown stories. They are excellent examples of how money can intelligently grow when plowed into businesses which are very India-specific.
We need to highlight more of these Indian success stories. I am sure there must be many more successful entrepreneurs in the smaller Indian towns which we are unaware of because the media – unfortunately – doesn’t pay any attention to them.
These businessmen do not lead flashy lifestyles, and do not crave media publicity – they just continue doing a great job creating wealth year-on-year without trying to seek the limelight.
These companies have existed for many generations, and have grown with the changing times, because they adapted to India’s growth. These businesses will continue to thrive, and there is a lot to learn from them.
(Written by Dr. Aniruddha Malpani, Director & Values Custodian, Solidarity Advisors)